Breven’s Blog: Reflecting on the Life of Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn swinging a bat

Sunday was not just Father’s Day for Tony Gwynn Jr. That day marked five years since the passing of his Dad, Anthony Keith Gwynn, a legend in San Diego.

Gwynn came to SDSU on an unpredictable basketball scholarship, but once his basketball coach let him play baseball, he would be lights out both on the hardwood and on the diamond. The Long Beach native was a star point guard and still hold the records for most assists in a season (221), assists per game (8.2) and in a career (590). In Gwynn’s final game as an Aztec basketball player, he would have a career game, posting 16 points and 16 assists against New Mexico in 1981.

Although he came to SDSU as a basketball player at Montezuma Mesa, he still wanted to contribute to the Aztec baseball team. When he got the OK to play baseball from former SDSU basketball head coach Tim Vezie in his sophomore year, he became a two-time All-American. He would go on to play with teammates that would go on to play or partake some role in Major League Baseball (MLB), including MLB umpire Kerwin Danley (Gwynn’s roommate at SDSU), former pitcher and Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, former player and coach Bobby Meacham, and former player and two-time World Series Champion Al Newman. Gwynn received Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in both basketball and baseball, making him the only athlete in WAC history to accomplish that feat.

Before professional sports were a televised event, Gwynn was able to accomplish things that only few people have ever achieved.

In June of 1981, Gwynn would get drafted by the then-San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles Clippers) and the San Diego Padres on the same day. Gwynn would choose to stay in San Diego and play for the Padres. He would make his debut one year later in July of 1982 and from that moment on, he would wear the brown and gold, the blue and orange and the pinstripes up until his final season in 2001.

For 20 seasons, Gwynn was known for his hitting, but during his first slump he started a trend – video. In 1983, he was in a slump and asked his wife to get a camera to film his at-bats. From then on, he would never have a slump like what he went through and it was the beginning of video in the game of baseball. With Gwynn initiating the aspect of film in the sport (in terms of looking back and studying the video), people would call him “Captain Video.” Gwynn would finish his 1983 season with a batting average .309 and for the next 18 years of his career, he would never hit below .300. In 1984, it was a great year for the Padres and Gwynn himself. He would go to his first All-Star Game, win his first batting title and go to his first World Series.

As Gwynn would continue to go to All-Star Games, he would also win batting titles, Silver Sluggers and receive Gold Gloves.

When the 1990s came around, he would continue to get better by talking to retired players, such as Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Ted Williams. After his conversations with both of them, his best year were on the horizon. From 1994 to 1997, he led the National League in hits three times, won four batting titles, went to four All-Star games and only struck out 79 times in those four years. And in those four years, he had a slash line of .371 (batting average)/.415 (on base percentage)/.511 (slugging percentage), an ideal spot for hitters, the iconic .300/.400/.500 line. His batting average would also include getting a chance at hitting .400 in 1994, the closest anyone has accomplished that feat since Williams hit .406 in 1941. Gwynn would finish with a .394 batting average in a shortened-season due to a strike.

In 1998, Gwynn and Padres would have another magical run in the postseason, like what they through in 1984.

They would win 98 games and the division, beat future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson from the Houston Astros, who won 102 games in the NL Division Series. Then, they outlasted the Hall of Fame trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the Atlanta Braves, who won 106 games to get to the World Series and face a New York Yankees team that won 114 games during the regular season. At the end of the 2001 season, Gwynn would call it a career as he would finish with a .338 lifetime batting average, record 3,141 hits, go to 15 All-Star games, win five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and eight batting titles. Another thing he also won was respect; respect from players, coaches, fans and the media from around Major League Baseball because of the humbleness and person that he was, more than a baseball player.

Gwynn’s favorite memory came from the postseason and that was hitting a home run at (old) Yankee Stadium in Game One of the World Series. He cared about his family; he wanted to stay in America’s Finest City and not be traded or take a new contract in a different city. He spent his career in one town for an entire career, was a part of two World Series teams and will forever known as “Mr. Padre.” After Gwynn finished his baseball career, he would continue being on the field by coming back to Montezuma Mesa to be the head coach of the Aztec baseball team beginning in 2002.

In 2007, he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by getting 97.6% of the ballot.

Gwynn will forever be known as “Mr. Padre” and an Aztec For Life. Ever since he came to San Diego in 1977, he never wanted to leave the city and the fans never wanted him to leave. It was the bond that he was able to create with players, coaches, fans and the media that made him stand out. June 16 has been a day to never forget Tony Gwynn for Padre fans, Aztec fans, and MLB fans that admired him.

Written by: Breven Honda

Interview with Chris Bailoni of Grapetooth

Grapetooth

Chris Bailoni, one-half of Chicago synth-pop/new wave duo Grapetooth, discusses his musical beginnings, modern new wave, and what’s next for the band.

What do you think of when you think of Chicago? The windy city is known for its deep dish pizza, its two Major League Baseball teams, and its Prohibition-Era history of organized crime. Music wise, Chicago has produced countless notable musicians that span many genres: Muddy Waters, Kanye West, and the Smashing Pumpkins all hail from Chi-Town.

But despite acting as a musical melting pot, a genre that Chicago isn’t particularly known for is synth heavy, ‘80s new wave dance music. The modern resurgence of this kind of music, inspired by bands like New Order and Tears for Fears, is even less associated with the area. However, the wine-fueled partnership of two Chicago-based musicians is changing that.

grapetooth (n.) one who consumes copious amounts of red wine, to the point that their teeth are frequently stained crimson.

Grapetooth is also the name ascribed to the musical collaboration of producer Chris Bailoni, also known as Home-Sick, and Clay Frankel, vocalist and guitarist for garage rock band Twin Peaks. After bonding over a mutual love of wine and Japanese new wave, Bailoni and Frankel began experimenting with making music together in December of 2015. “There was some night when we were out and Clay was talking about wanting to make some music that’s not rock music, like Twin Peaks. We were drunk at this bar, just chatting about it,” Bailoni, now 26 and gearing up for Grapetooth’s headlining tour this June, recounts. “So he came over the next day and we just started making music. That’s kind of how all that started.”

Grapetooth played their first show in 2016 before they had even released a full-length record. They’ve been selling out venues ever since, gaining a reputation for their rambunctious live shows, which are half frenetic mosh pit, half wild dance party. Bailoni admits he wasn’t initially comfortable with performing on stage, and he credits their song “Violent” with helping him get over any stage fright he felt. “That was the first time I felt like we both broke through the nerves and got more comfortable with how the shows would go live, just because it was so fun to yell [“are you violent?”] so loud,” Bailoni recounts, when describing their first time playing the song at a show in Chicago.

Grapetooth’s bright, high tempo sound wasn’t necessarily intentional and it took some time to find. Bailoni described their first attempts at recording as “pretty strange”: “I guess the drums were dance-y and new-wave-y, but we pitched down the vocals and made them sound like horror movie soundtrack songs, really scary. Weird stuff, dissonant sounding.” It wasn’t until the spring of 2016, when the two wrote Grapetooth’s first single “Trouble”, that Bailoni thinks they really hit on something special. “That was probably the first song we made that we were both like, ‘oh wow, we’ve got a sound here and now we know what we’re doing’”.

Despite finding what Bailoni described as the perfect mesh of his production style and Frankel’s, the two didn’t always have serious aspirations for what they’d created.

“We still hadn’t really planned on releasing it or doing anything real or ever playing a show with it,” Bailoni continues, when asked about their initial plans for Grapetooth. “We were like, let’s maybe make a small EP and put it on Bandcamp for free or something like that.” Despite their modest intentions in their early days, Grapetooth released their first self-titled record in November of 2018. The majority of the ten-song tracklist is in line with their influences, which include synth-punk duo Suicide and Yukihiro Takahashi of Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, the curiously country-sounding closing track, “Together”, sounds a lot more like Frankel’s Twin Peaks work than a New Order song. Including that on the tracklist was no mistake. “I think we just wanted the record to be eclectic of genre and style, but still somehow fit together,” Bailoni explains, when asked about the disparate song’s inclusion. “It just sounds like two friends making music together in their bedroom, which is what the whole thing is.”

When asked about how Grapetooth fits into the Chicago music scene, Bailoni agrees that his city isn’t synonymous with the style of music he and Frankel are creating. “It’s definitely more rock based. Rock, and then obviously rap and hip hop. But all those worlds are so tightly connected – everyone in Chicago knows each other because it’s such a small community, like any community in a city of arts,” he says. “But yeah, I suppose there’s not too much synth/dance stuff coming out of Chicago.”

Maybe being a bit of an outlier in the music scene is one of the reasons why Grapetooth enjoyed such success before even putting out their first record. Personally, Bailoni thinks the combination of his and Frankel’s individual styles is what sets them apart from other bands that have a similar sound. “I do feel like there’s not too much stuff coming out that sounds like us,” he says. “But I feel like Clay’s vocal style kind of separates [us] from the pack and gives it more of a grunge punk sound. Because if you take away all the vocals, we just sound like we’re copying any New Order song or any new wave Japanese music.”

While a lot of musicians were seemingly born with guitar picks or drumsticks in their hands, Bailoni didn’t start dabbling into music until his second year of college. He credits his friend Kevin Rhomberg, known to many as producer and musician Knox Fortune, as his inspiration for getting into music production. “I remember him showing me all the music he was making on his laptop in his bedroom, just with shitty speakers,” Bailoni explains. “His ability to make songs that sounded like they were produced by a full band on his laptop kind of inspired me that you didn’t really have to have a lot of equipment or anything expensive, or any real [technical] musical knowledge, to be able to make songs.”

While a lack of musical knowledge might hinder some facets of the songwriting process, Bailoni thinks there’s a benefit to being less experienced with the technical aspects of music. “I think there’s definitely a positive aspect of not being too musical if you’re a producer, because you tend to lean more towards what sounds good emotion-wise versus what would make sense musically,” he says, when discussing his process for creating music.

“The lack of knowledge tends to force more outlandish, creative ideas, I suppose.”

Bailoni may not have started making music seriously until he was nineteen, but he had a different artistic outlet before that: filming and editing skateboarding videos. This skill would later benefit the band when it came time to make music videos, particularly the video for “Trouble”. “We just kind of grabbed a camera and then went out with a couple of weird outfits with our friend Jackson, who filmed it,” says Bailoni. “It ended up being kind of fun, just the mentality of how you film a skateboard edit: go out with your friends, edit it afterwards, and see what comes out of it.” Keeping with the band’s spirit of experimenting and seeing what happens, Bailoni explains that neither he nor Frankel aim for any kind of narrative in their videos, opting instead for videos that resemble “visual collages”.

What’s next for Grapetooth? For now, they’re proceeding in the same fashion as they always have: taking things as they come and having fun with it. “As far as what’s gonna happen in the future, we don’t really know. […] I guess we’re just gonna keep making music whenever we do, as we always have, and then actually put out a second record.” In the meantime, Bailoni thinks Grapetooth may put out a few singles or an EP this year. But rather than working with any big-name producers, he and Frankel will continue to employ the do-it-yourself method to create, as he puts it, the feeling of two friends making music together in their bedroom. “Just keeping it fun and simple,” Bailoni reiterates. “Us and friends.”

Grapetooth is currently on a headlining tour with support from Ian Sweet and James Swanberg. Catch them in Los Angeles on June 21st at the Echoplex, in Vancouver on June 25th at the Fox Cabaret, or anywhere else that fine concerts are sold. Tour dates can be found here.

Written by: Andrea Renney

Breven’s Sports Blog: SDSU Baseball, Basketball & Track

Bonnie Draxler cheering

SDSU Aztecs prove to be at the top of their game by winning major accolades and securing MLB draft picks. Soon enough, the basketball teams will face off opponents in the MWC.

Track & Field ends the year at Outdoor Champs with medals and honors.

What a year it has been for senior pole vaulter Bonnie Draxler. Back in March, the senior finished with a silver medal in the NCAA Indoor Championships. This time in the Outdoor Championships, she would do the same.

Last Thursday, Draxler would continue her run of making the podium for the field event by placing second. She cleared a height of 14-09.50 (4.51m) and finished as the NCAA runner-up.

In addition to Bonnie Draxler, the SDSU 4×400 meter team raced for a chance at gold. The team would come up short with a time of 3:33.64, which was good for 11th best.

The 4x400m relay team consisted of sophomore Sakura Robinson, senior Lise-Anne Barrow, sophomore Jalyn Harris, and freshman Nyjari McNeil.

As a result of this young team, the future is bright for SDSU Track and Field, especially in the 4x400m.

Over the weekend, history was made when all five athletes earned All-American honors, according to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Sunday.

Draxler was named to the first team and the 4x400m relay team was selected to the second team.

This was not Draxler’s first go-around as an All-American.

In four years as an Aztec, she became a four-time All-American, which includes becoming a two-time first-team All-American (2019 Indoor and Outdoor Championships), a second-team All American at the 2018 Indoor Championships, and was an honorable mention in the 2017 outdoor season.

4 Aztecs drafted into MLB

The month of June marks a new beginning for baseball players to start their professional career.

Every Major League Baseball Draft is composed of 40 rounds and this year, 1,217 players were selected; however, not all will decide to play pro ball. One reason is due to the college the person has already committed to.

In the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft, four players from San Diego State were selected.

RHP Logan Boyer – 11th round, Los Angeles Dodgers

OF Julian Escobedo – 17th round, Cleveland Indians

RHP Adrian Mardueno – 20th round, St. Louis Cardinals

SS Angelo Armenta – 38th round, Tampa Bay Rays

With these four players getting drafted, the SDSU Baseball Program now has 219 MLB draft picks and 21 since 2014.

From the Mountain West, only Fresno had a higher number of draft picks from their program, recording eight.

MWC unveils conference opponents and schedule

On June 6, the Mountain West Conference released the 2019-20 conference schedule for both men’s and women’s hoops, but unlike years past, there are some things that will change and some things that will stay the same.

In the past, Conference games started a week before New Year’s Day. This year, it starts almost a month before the new year. What will stay the same are the number of opponents a team will face.

The Mountain West will stick to its normal 18-game conference schedule, but conference play begins as early as December 4.

The Aztecs’ conference opener is set for Dec. 4 against Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo. and their first home game is Sunday, Dec. 8 against San Jose State.

The two early conference games is because the 2020 MWC Tournament is a week before and there is a convention the usual week the tournament would be held, according to a tweet from the Mountain West Wire (@MWCwire).   

After the conference games, the Mountain West takes a break for teams to play non-conference opponents and face finals. Conference play resumes New Year’s Day with the Aztecs staying home to face Fresno State.

Conference play will last until Feb. 29 when the Aztecs head to a familiar spot to end the season: Reno, Nev. to face the Wolfpack for a third consecutive year.

The MW Tournament will have the same format, but will begin March 4 and will go until the seventh.

There are pros and cons to moving the Conference schedule up two weeks.

Pro: by moving the conference schedule up two weeks the team(s) that makes the NCAA Tournament have two weeks to get ready rather than four days (or two days if in the first round play-in game).

Con: The Aztecs always ride the fans’ jubilant energy (particularly from the students; The Show), especially for conference games. As a result of the change and most students going home for winter break, the Aztecs will have to get fired up some other way for three games at Viejas Arena until the 2020 spring semester classes begins on Jan. 22. However, what makes it a con are the three teams the Aztecs are facing: Jan. 1 vs. Fresno St., Jan. 11 vs. Boise St., and Jan. 18 vs. Nevada.

Here’s the schedule for Men’s and Women’s Basketball for SDSU:

DateMen’s ScheduleWomen’s Schedule
Dec. 4@ Colorado StateVs. Colorado State
Dec. 7Vs. San Jose State (Dec. 8)@ San Jose State
Jan. 1Vs. Fresno State@ Fresno State
Jan. 4@ Utah StateVs. Utah State
Jan. 8@ WyomingVs. Wyoming
Jan. 11Vs. Boise State@ Boise State
Jan. 15@ Fresno StateVs. Fresno State
Jan. 18 Vs. Nevada@ Nevada
Jan. 22Wyoming@ Wyoming
Jan. 25@ UNLVVs. UNLV
Jan. 29@ New MexicoVs. New Mexico
Feb. 1Vs. Utah State@ Utah State
Feb. 8@ Air ForceVs. Air Force
Feb. 12Vs. New Mexico @ New Mexico
Feb. 15@ Boise St.Vs. Boise State
Feb. 22 Vs. UNLV@ UNLV
Feb. 26Vs. Colorado State@ Colorado State
Feb. 29@ NevadaVs. Nevada
Written by: Breven Honda
Featured Image by: goaztecs.com

Breven’s Sports Blog: Padres Working Towards Recovery

Padres shortstop Tatis Jr. crouching down

The San Diego Padres look to improve their offensive game despite a minor setback early on in the season.

The hometown team, who entered the week at 30-29 and are only two games back of the second wild-card spot, are looking to heat up in the final stretch before the All-Star Break.

Today, we are going to dive into a couple of Padres topics.

Injuries

For the past five weeks, the Padres have been playing without their shortstop phenom and No. 2 prospect across MLB, Fernando Tatis Jr. Fortunately, their backup shortstop – Manny Machado – has played great since his departure.

Before the team’s top prospect went down, the combination between Machado and Tatis Jr. filling the left side of the infield saw a glimpse into what the next 10-plus years could look like for baseball in San Diego.

That glimpse would turn to a pause after the Padres lost to the Nationals, 7-6 in 10 innings on April 28. Tatis Jr. went down after overstretching for a ball at second base and pulled a hamstring

With hamstring injuries, the timing is uncertain as to when a player will return, but it all depends on the muscle itself. Some take a couple of days; some take a month or two.

However, some good news came this past weekend for Tatis Jr. and the Padres.

Tatis Jr. began his rehab assignment this past Monday in Double-A Amarillo (Texas) in hopes to return to the team by the end of the homestand or early next week.

In that game he would go 1-for-3 with two walks. That hit would be an infield single that he legged out. Despite having a throwing error, he would steal a base for the Amarillo Sod Poodles in their 8-5 loss against the Frisco RoughRiders.

As a result of baseball’s No. 2 prospect going down, Machado moved over to shortstop and the backups at third base have not been as consistent.

The Padres have used a duo between San Diego State Alum Ty France and San Diego-product via Valhalla High School Greg Garcia to fill the gap to cover the hot corner. Although France and Garcia have seen playing time at the hot corner, the consistency has not been there.

Tatis Jr. posted a batting average of .300, hit six home runs and also had six stolen bases, with most of those coming in the leadoff spot before he got injured.

Not only does this affect the hot corner, but it also has an effect on the leadoff spot. Since Tatis Jr. went down, the combination of Wil Myers, Garcia, and Ian Kinsler plays a key hitting role in the top spot. Garcia secure the most time in the leadoff spot, but the same theme of inconsistency transpires.

Besides Tatis Jr. working back from his injury, others are also starting their rehabilitation assignments. Both outfielders Jose Pirela and Franchy Cordero started their rehab assignments last week in Triple-A El Paso and are close to making a comeback.

Also, catcher Francisco Mejia and outfielder Alex Dickerson completed their rehab assignments last week and have been activated, playing in El Paso.

The most notable player completing his rehabilitation assignments is pitcher Dinelson Lamet who is coming off Tommy John surgery a couple days before Opening Day last season. Lamet is on schedule of the rehab process, which is usually around 12-16 months and, if all goes well, is on pace to rejoin the Padres at the end of the month.

Offense

Despite the injury to Tatis Jr., the Padres have been able to hit the ball well. Although the Padres are 14-15 since he went down, the bats have been staying alive.

First baseman Eric Hosmer has stepped up over the past month. After hitting under .200 in the season’s first few weeks, he has brought his batting average up to .300 last week that includes posting a 10-game hitting streak, which ended Sunday.

In the month of May, Hosmer went 36-for-105 with a .343 batting average, scored 17 times, and had 15 RBIs.

The Padres are ninth in all of baseball (and fourth in the National League) with 89 home runs (as of June 4). Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes, who have each recorded 17 home runs so far, have kept the offense alive.

Everyday, there has been at least one player to keep the offense going.

As the calendar gets into the heart of June, the next couple of weeks will determine whether or not the Padres will be playoff contenders as well as buyers or sellers (or stand pat) as the Trade Deadline looms in July. The Padres could even look at getting a starting pitcher such as free agent Dallas Keuchel or Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer to bolster a young rotation.

Written by: Breven Honda
Featured Image from: The San Diego Union-Tribune